While firearms have been a factor in three recent Pottawatomie County homicides, this area has seen just as many killings by other means in the recent past, including stabbings and blunt force trauma.
In two Pottawatomie County homicide cases, the victims were shot with stolen weapons.
In the death of an Asher man last fall, a gun stolen in a residential burglary was the reported murder weapon, while a Norman man was shot and killed with his own weapon after it was taken during a burglary from his home. Suspects are charged in both those cases. In the third shooting death, a McLoud man was shot and killed in December; two brothers are now charged in that case.
But for those three murders involving guns, the Shawnee area has also seen several homicides caused by stabbings or assault, along with an unsolved murder involving a blunt force trauma.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said while police have seen more homicides by means other than firearms, they have issues with firearms in other types of crimes, but more specifically with those individuals who can’t legally have them.
“Gun violence is pretty low here,” the chief said, adding the problems they see involve convicted felons with firearms.
Since Jan. 1, 2012, Shawnee police have logged 62 handguns into evidence along with 26 long guns, of which 14 were shotguns and 12 were rifles.
Evidence Officer Greg Gibson said of the 62 handguns, one was involved in a shots fired incident and one for a suspicious death. But the highest number — 15 — became evidence in possession-of-firearm cases involving those transporting and unlawfully carrying firearms, Gibson reported.
On the 26 long guns, four of them were determined to be illegal weapons, while four were taken for unlawful carrying and eight involved drug-related cases. Gibson said none of the long guns seized in the past year were considered assault rifles.
In incidents this past week, Shawnee police arrested a felon in possession of a weapon after he allegedly shot the pistol into the air while in his front yard. In another case, police confiscated a sawed-off shotgun from another felon.
“They keep wanting to come down on assault weapons, but the problem is with what we call ‘Saturday night specials,’” Frantz said, and specifically a variety of guns handled by convicted felons.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth agrees.
While Booth said the national focus has been a push to ban assault weapons, law enforcement here aren’t seeing issues with those types of weapons.
“We don’t have any problem with assault weapons,” Booth said, adding most of the traditional weapons used in crimes locally aren’t being used by those who are obtaining them lawfully.
Page 2 of 2 - “Bad guys are going to get guns,” the sheriff said, adding they’ll steal them if necessary. Oftentimes, Booth said people want to blame the instrument used in a murder.
“People kill people,” Booth said, commenting on radio personality Paul Harvey speaking about a broomstick used as a murder weapon.
“Does that mean we’ll start to outlaw brooms,” Booth asked, adding, “guns get a bad rap.”
In Tecumseh, statistics show the numbers of gun-related incident reports have been low the past few years.
Chief Gary Crosby said over the past 2-3 years, police there worked 42 gun-related reports. Of those, 16 were reports of stolen guns, with seven recovered, he said. The 26 other incidents involved firearms seized for various reasons, including two taken from intoxicated persons, two from felons, and two from those transporting firearms without being licensed, the chief said.
“We haven’t run into anything more or less involving guns,” Crosby said, adding the last shooting incident there that involved an injury occurred several years ago.
With the current debate across the country on how to best protect citizens from gun violence, Booth said many causes need to be addressed, such as improved mental health treatment, media violence, drugs, gangs and reducing access of guns to prohibited persons.
“Our state is primarily a rural state and many citizens rely on guns to protect their property and families. In many cases, response time from a sheriff’s office can be lengthy due to lack of manpower and the distance in which a deputy may have to respond,” he said.
That’s why Booth strongly supports a citizen’s right to bear arms and said he, along with the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, does not support any laws that would deprive that right.